The Girl Without A Dupatta

I remember Smitha, her confidence, her self-love, and her don’t care attitude. If I hadn't been so worried about what my friends would think, she and I might have made great friends.

“How can she roam around without a dupatta? All the boys were staring at her!” my friend Rani said with disgust in her voice.

“Who?” I asked

“Arre that new girl Smitha, who has come from Mumbai. She was wearing a churidar but no dupatta. These city girls are like that only.”

This was in intermediate college. I was 17 then. Smitha had just moved to our small town from Mumbai on account of her father’s job and had joined our college. She was a bubbly, extroverted girl who instantly made friends with everyone and participated in almost all extracurricular activities. Our college had a strict dress code, no jeans or skirts allowed, and we must wear only Churidars.

Smitha wore the churidar sans the dupatta. This was enough for us to relegate her to the spoiled city girl category. She became the butt of our jokes and gossip sessions. I too participated in them. We were a bunch of teenage girls with a holier-than-thou attitude. I am not proud of what I did, but the years of patriarchal upbringing had a huge impact on our thinking.

Even though my parents are open-minded and let me wear whatever I wanted, I was influenced by my friends, and I started thinking like them. The fact that they all were my hostel mates, and I was spending 24/7 with them did not help. I wanted to fit in, so I didn’t say anything and joined them in making fun of the new girl. I had once overheard Smitha telling a friend of hers that she hates wearing a dupatta as she feels it to be too constricting and she doesn’t care what anybody thinks.  At that moment I felt a glimmer of respect for her that she chose her freedom over others’ opinions.

We could have been friends, if only…

We once got a lecture from our math professor on how to wear a dupatta and look and behave like a lady. She was in her early 40s and now when I think about her, she reminds me of the character Angela from The Office, a tightly wound and judgmental lady. That day she entered the class and asked all the boys to leave for 15 mins. She then went on to show us how to properly pin our dupatta (so our breasts are not visible), how to sit, how to act so as not to ‘provoke’ the boys etc.

The sad part of it all was that many girls took her seriously and started dressing that way. Talk about brainwashing! All of this was in the early 2000s. But Smitha was unaffected. She continued dressing the way she wanted and somehow, I started feeling a kinship towards her. Of course, I did not tell my friends that I had suddenly developed a soft corner for her in the fear of becoming an outcast.

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After finishing intermediate, we all went our separate ways. I don’t remember most of my so-called friends, but time and again I remember Smitha, her confidence, her self-love, and her don’t care attitude. If I had not been so worried about what my friends would think, Smitha and I might have made great friends. Teenage is such a vulnerable stage in your life and more than anything, you just want to blend in with the crowd and I was doing just that.

Fast forward to now, and my responsibility to my daughter

I gave birth almost 2 years ago and I have gained a considerable amount of weight since then. No matter what I wore, I found faults in all of them, either my arms looked fat or my abdomen or my thighs bulged, etc.

One day I was getting ready to go out and my daughter had just turned 18 months. She was observing me apply eyeliner, and she asked me to apply it to her as well. So, I just closed the cap and pretended to apply it to her eye. She went crazy with excitement and had this huge toothy grin and started looking at herself in the mirror with so much admiration that it just warmed my heart.

At that moment, it hit me that I have a daughter now. I have this huge responsibility to instill body confidence in her. I just cannot let my insecurities about my body influence her.

If I want her to grow up into a confident young lady then I had to lead by example. If I constantly talk about faults in my body, then she would do the same in the future about her body. Instead of being disappointed in my body, I should learn to celebrate it and take care of it. My daughter might grow up and become another Smitha, a girl who stands out from the crowd and is made fun of or gossiped about. But I don’t want her to get deterred by other people’s opinions, and to continue doing what makes her feel happy and be true to herself.

Image source: a still from the film 2 States

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About the Author

Varsha Mudlapur

A former IT professional recently turned a stay at home mom to a beautiful baby girl. I also write at where I talk about all things parenting and motherhood. It is my read more...

3 Posts | 4,954 Views

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